The busyness and stress over the holiday season can easily disrupt marriage intimacy. To avoid letting the crazy calendar, expenses, and relatives get you bickering with each other, we've compiled a quick list of tips to help you get through the holidays with a thankful heart and a strong union.
Provide Support for Each Other Around Family
Not all family gatherings are cheerful all the way through. There might be some relatives that try your or your spouse's patience. Before gathering for the holidays, ask your spouse how you can help make the family gathering better for them. There might be some rules/boundaries you set together in advance. Examples include requesting not to be left alone with a particular relative, agreeing to ignore someone when they inevitably start up with their irritating behavior, or asking your spouse to let you handle it when your family member brings up a triggering topic. Commit to being supportive of each other and staying united as a team.
Make Time for Your Spouse
Packed schedules can make it hard to get alone time with your spouse. If you feel your schedule is so full that you can't get quality time with your spouse, consider sending out some "no thank you" responses to clear up the calendar a bit. Carving out some intimate moments with your spouse is key to keeping your partnership strong and your spark lit. It can also help decrease your stress and anxiety by stepping out of the go-go-go's of the holidays. Ideas can include going for a walk together, reminiscing about your favorite holiday memories, or cuddling up to watch a favorite holiday movie.
Make Time for You
Self-care is an essential component of a healthy marriage (and a happy life!). During the holidays, the number of people that can surround you at times can be intense, and taking a breather for yourself can make the difference between being in a relaxed state or high-strung. Try to find a half hour a day or a couple of hours a couple of times a week to take time for yourself. Everyone needs time to decompress and practice a little TLC.
Emotions can run high during the holidays, and opportunities for intimacy are limited, which can result in more arguments. Arguing is a normal part of relationships and sometimes a helpful pathway to communication that might've been lacking previously. Fighting in a mean-spirited and unproductive way, however, is a problem. An unproductive fight happens when insults are thrown around, unrelated arguments are inserted, and no solutions are proposed. If something is bothering you, and you can feel a fight is brewing, take a few minutes apart to gather your thoughts on why you are upset and what you'd like the outcome of the argument to be. When you do start the discussion, communicate your feelings, not accusations. Try to begin sentences with phrases like, "I feel like..." instead of "You never...". And if your family and friends are over the holidays, try not to involve them. Other people's opinions can distance you even more from your spouse. If you feel that you need an impartial third party to help you communicate or renew your spark, that might be a sign for when to see a marriage counselor.
Create a Pro List (With No Con Side)
Everyone has their praiseworthy qualities and their imperfections. Sometimes in moments of stress, it's easier to focus on your spouse's negatives instead of their positives. Maybe they did one thing you don't like, and now all you can think about are the things that have disappointed or frustrated you. Neuroscience tells us that we become what we focus on; constantly thinking negative thoughts rewires our neuropathways, making it our default setting. However, we can turn this around. If you spent thirty minutes each day concentrating on everything you don't like about your spouse, you'd be miserable and resentful, and your spouse would likely feel the same. However, if you take the time instead each day to be thankful for the things you love and appreciate about your spouse, you'll be training your brain to be positive. You might find that there are things you've been taking for granted about your spouse, and your patience and love for them will be allowed to flourish.
The bottom line is to remember that you and your spouse are in this together and are free to set boundaries on what you will or won't allow during the holidays to maintain a loving and solid partnership. The relationship you have with one another is what's most important; if you feel anything (internal or external) is getting in the way or damaging it, it needs to either be removed or worked out. If you go through the holiday season with an intentional focus on the strength and intimacy of your marriage, you'll finish the season with even stronger roots to weather any storms that may come your way.